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“Let Me Tell You About My Transgender Daughter” — Guest Post by Peggy Geiger

I recently finished sorting through the holiday “brag” letters we received from friends and family. We read about adult children with successful careers and grandchildren who are incredibly talented and intelligent. I used to write such holiday letters, but news about our adult daughter is no longer so upbeat.  In my holiday letter this year, I wrote that D filled in as a k-jay for karaoke night at a gay bar.

D came out as a transgender woman in her mid-20’s. Facing a gender identity crisis threw her life into turmoil. She took a leave of absence from school and eventually decided not to return. The crisis freed her from a path chosen while she was still trying to conform to societal expectations of a young male. The crisis blocked any clear forward path.

D’s journey has been challenging. As parents, we’ve experienced heart wrenching sorrow and concern. We accept D as she is, but she struggles with anxiety and depression that, at times are crippling. Trans-people face enormous obstacles in finding employment, housing, as well as good physical and mental health care.  D is subject to everything from intrusive stares to rude comments to physical violence. Then there’s the growing movement on the local, state, and federal levels to deny fundamental rights and privileges to LGBTQ people, so there is little to no legal recourse against discrimination or violence.

Success means more than just what a person accomplishes; it also involves who the person is. So let me brag about my beautiful daughter. She’s committed to social justice. She started a tailoring business to alter clothes for people who are transgender and have difficulty finding clothes that fit their bodies. At first she couldn’t support herself on what she earned because she charged only what people could afford. When she is able, she volunteers for the national trans-suicide hot line. She marches in pride parades and participates in Black Lives Matter rallies.  

Since D came out, my husband and I have tried to be supportive. We can be like blundering elephants in our efforts. This is uncharted territory. We’ve read a variety of books and found PFLAG to be helpful. When people are curious about D, we respond openly and honestly, trying to subtly educate with the hope of gradually removing the stigma of being transgender.

I love D and want her to be happy with herself and her life. There’s nothing she can do that will make me stop loving her. Being transgender is not a choice; it is a matter of self –acceptance, a process that can be both difficult and rewarding. D’s life may be unconventional to some, but it is genuine, and we are so proud of her.

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Calling all parents of school-age children!

Jordan Frederick, our social media coordinator, is conducting a survey for a piece of writing on LGBTQIA+ advocacy in the classroom, and she needs your help!

If you have a child in pre-K through 12th grade and can spare 10 minutes, please go to https://goo.gl/forms/WEfAxAoesuVhBoQR2 and complete the form there.

All responses will be used anonymously unless you indicate otherwise. And please — if you can, share the link with friends who also have children! She is not collecting information from parents of home-schooled children at this time.

Thank you in advance for your help and participation!

From Fear and Denial to Acceptance and Beyond: A Guest Blog Post by Karen Graci

When our 15-year-old child came out as transgender almost three years ago, I didn’t know that transgender individuals experience higher rates of verbal harassment, physical assault, poverty, and unemployment. 1 I didn’t know that transgender youth experience higher rates of depression and anxiety. 2 I didn’t know that 40% of transgender adults had attempted suicide.  I didn’t know that 74% of those first suicide attempts were at age 17 or younger. 1 I didn’t know that 40% of homeless youth in our country identify as LGBTQ. 3 I didn’t know any of this.  And I was petrified.

I had never knowingly met a transgender person.  I believed our child might be the only transgender teen in Charlotte (she’s not), or maybe even in North Carolina. I was scared.  I was scared for her life.  I was scared for her future.  And I was scared for our family of four. I worried how our friends would react.  I worried whether her school would be supportive. I worried that our family would be judged. I worried about whether I’d be comfortable going back to our church. I worried about how grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins would react. I worried about finding the right health care providers to support both our child and our family. But mostly, I longed for the day when our child would grow to truly accept herself and the beautiful person she is—inside and out.

Five months into our journey, we found PFLAG.  At our first meeting, my husband and I learned we were not alone.  Parents, friends and allies of the LGBTQ community surrounded us.  We discovered a judgment free safe space filled with open minds, open hearts, and rainbows.  Yes, there were (and are) tears shed, but there were also lots of smiles shared and laughs exchanged.  PFLAG is a community that continues to support us, educate us, and share resources with us, and we have embraced all that PFLAG Charlotte has to offer.

A year ago, I was invited to be a part of PFLAG’s Healthcare Outreach Initiative. What began two years ago as a project to develop a gender information brochure for healthcare providers and parents of transgender and gender nonconforming children ultimately resulted in a partnership with the Mecklenburg County Medical Society (MCMS). Through this collaboration, our PFLAG Healthcare Outreach Team of seven parent volunteers has worked with MCMS and two of North Carolina’s largest hospital systems to present to hundreds of pediatric, family medical, OB/GYN, behavioral health providers, medical residents, nurses and office staff.

During our one-hour workshops, we share our family stories, we provide information and data, and we strive to heighten awareness on how to be an affirming and inclusive provider.  We conclude with a conversation about a wide range of resources available to healthcare providers and LGBTQ patients and families, including the Charlotte Transgender Healthcare Group (www.cthcg.org), Time Out Youth (www.timeoutyouth.org), Transcend Charlotte (www.transcendcharlotte.org) and, of course, PFLAG (www.pflagcharlotte.org).

When I share our family story in a workshop, I often reflect back on the worries I had early on.  How did our friends react?  For the most part, they were overwhelmingly supportive.  They had (and probably still have) lots of questions.  That’s okay; we’re happy to answer them.  Were we judged?  Perhaps.  Did we lose any friends?  A few.  Have we gone back to our church?  No.  We’re still struggling with that.  How did our extended family react?  They were, and are, awesome.  What about school?  We’re thankful for an Upper School Director and a guidance counselor who are travelling the journey with us every step of the way, and for faculty who value and support each individual student for who they are.

How is our child?  She’s 18 now, and like most 18 year olds (and 55 year olds), she struggles with finding her place in the world.  Her writing blows me away; I admire her depth of appreciation for music and poetry and knowledge in all its forms; and she has slowly begun to share her story in hopes of making the path a bit smoother for those gender nonconforming and transgender youth who will follow.  She’s looking forward to heading to college in August.  Most importantly, she is living her life as the person she has always known herself to be.  What more can a parent hope for?

Yes, I still worry; don’t we all?  Yet the worries have evolved and our family of four feels whole again.  The fears have been replaced with hope, love, awe and gratitude for our children’s strength and for our family’s transition.  We’ve learned gender is a spectrum.  We’ve learned that being transgender or gender nonconforming is not a choice. And we’ve learned how much we don’t know—and that has been the best gift of all.

Research demonstrates that supporting transgender youth in their gender identity can “virtually eliminate higher rates of depression and low self-worth”. 4 This life-saving support for transgender youth needs to come from home, from school, and from the community.  That is how we change the scary statistics.  And that is why I believe tomorrow can, and will, be better.  Our world can always do more when it comes to understanding, acceptance, and inclusion.

Like many of you, I’ve learned when your life goes off-script, it’s not always easy, but it’s those twists and turns that often make our time here that much more meaningful. If you’re interested in learning more about PFLAG or in working with us to create a workshop for your organization, your faith community, your school administrators and faculty, your PTA, or your book group, please email us at pflagcharlotte@gmail.com. We welcome the opportunity to meet you where you are and, together, we can build a bridge to a better tomorrow for all our youth.

 

 


James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

2 Reisner, Sari L. et al. Mental Health of Transgender Youth in Care at an Adolescent Urban Community Health Center: A Matched Retrospective Cohort StudyJ Adolesc Health. 2015;56:274 – 279.

3 Durso, L.E., & Gates, G.J. (2012). Serving Our Youth: Findings from a National Survey of Service Providers Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth who are Homeless or At Risk of Becoming Homeless. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute with True Colors Fund and The Palette Fund.

4 Transgender Youth: The Building Evidence Base for Early Social Transition. Turban, Jack L. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry , Volume 56 , Issue 2 , 101 – 102

“My Journey of Love and Acceptance” – a guest post from chapter president Ashley Nurkin

It was the winter of 2015. Our then 6 year old “son” was riding in the backseat of the car, and  said to me in a quiet yet desperate voice, “Mom, I want to be a girl all the time.” While I was calm and collected on the outside, I was panicking and doing everything I could to hold the back tears.

In retrospect, this should not have been a surprise. The signs had been there for years. By then, “T” had a closet full of “girl clothes,” only played with girls, was dying to grow “his” hair long, and loved all things princess and Barbie. We had been seeing a therapist who confirmed that “T” was on the gender non-conforming spectrum but who also said that “T” was too young at this point to predict how gender identity was ultimately going to shake out.

While hearing “I want to be a girl all the time” was not entirely a shock to us, it was still pretty shocking because it felt like the final piece of a puzzle being put in place. When “T” finally told us “this is who I am – I am not a boy, I am a girl,” our journey raising a transgender daughter began.

At first, I felt very isolated and completely overwhelmed by fear. Fear of our community not accepting our child, fear of T’s friends not accepting her for her authentic self. Fear of losing my friends and my family — what would they think when I told them that we don’t have a boy but a transgender girl? My biggest fear, however, was for my child’s safety and well-being. Early on, I’d learned that for a transgender person, bullying and harassment are often not a matter of “if” but “when.” Would she be strong and confident enough to hold her head high in the face bullying and harassment?

There were days when I was mad: why is this happening to us? I was envious of my friends whose biggest concerns were whether their children cleaned their rooms or which clothes their child wanted to wear to school that day. Did they have any idea what our family was going through?

As days became weeks and weeks became months, we slowly realized that the fundamental choice we were making was to support our child simply being herself, and our family slowly began to feel “normal” again.  Pronouns changed, our friends were supportive, and our family rallied around our daughter. Our child was thriving. We were going to make it.

We know that our journey has just begun. “T” is now 9. We have many years and many challenges ahead of us, and our family will continue to love, support, and advocate for our child.

There are still days that I get sad. The world can be unforgiving, and when I think about bigotry and discrimination and how cruel people can be, it makes me sad for the challenges “T” will face as she gets older.  I think about that a lot.

I’m not sad, however, that I have a transgender daughter (in fact, quite the opposite). This journey has taught our family invaluable lessons about equality, bravery, empathy, and the simple power of loving unconditionally. “T” has taught us that living your authentic life is living your best life.

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Do you have a story that you would like to share? We’re looking for guest authors, and we would love to hear from you! E-mail pflagcharlotte@gmail.com with your idea for a blog post, and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

A note from our President (no, not that one)

Hey PFLAG’ers,

We need your help! CMS will be voting on their multiculturalism policy updates tomorrow evening at the school board meeting. These updates will include adding language that supports students regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. I am encouraging each of you to call your school board representative or a school board representative telling them you are in SUPPORT of these updates!
Our school board needs to hear from you!

Unfortunately, there will be a group showing up to the school board meeting on Tuesday evening strongly opposing any of the proposed updates. Let’s show CMS that we want these updates, and thank them for including ALL students!

Warm Regards,

Ashley Nurkin
Mary McCray (Chairperson At-Large) – mart.mccray@cms.k12.nc.us, 704-281-6074
Rhonda Lennon, Vice-Chair (District 1) – rhonda.lennon@cms.k12.nc.us, 980-231-1465
Elyse Dashew (At-Large) – elysec.dashew@cms.k12.nc.us, 704-659-6994
Ericka Ellis-Stewart (At-Large) – ericka.ellis-stewart@cms.k12.nc.us, 704-412-8565
Thelma Byers-Bailey (District 2) – thelmab.bailey@cms.k12.nc.us, 980-272-1943
Ruby Jones (District 3) – rubymjones@cms.k12.nc.us, 704-579-1763
Carol Sawyer (District 4) – carole.sawyer@cms.k12.nc.us, 980-292-0554
Margaret Marshall (District 5) – margarets.marshall@cms.k12.nc.us, 980-343-1837
Sean Strain (District 6) – seanc.strain@cms.k12.nc.us, 980-343-5139

“Black Friday”? Try #GivingTuesday!

What is Giving Tuesday?

 We’re so glad you asked! #GivingTuesdayCLT is Charlotte’s local response to the global #GivingTuesday movement which developed to encourage individuals around the country to give back to their communities and make positive changes in the lives of their neighbors. The Charlotte chapter is an unprecedented collaboration of over 230 Charlotte nonprofits as well as corporations, local businesses, professional sports teams, and community organizations working together for the greater good.

 

How does PFLAG fit into this campaign?

PFLAG Charlotte is excited and honored to be a part of Giving Tuesday for a second year. As an official #GivingTuesdayCLT 2017 Nonprofit Partner, we have an amazing opportunity to spread our mission to the greater community, to raise awareness of the issues facing our LGBT+ children and friends, and to offer support to other amazing organizations working for positive change in the Charlotte community. The donations we receive from this event will go towards helping us maintain our activism and, hopefully, to expand our services even further in the year to come.

 

Is it only a one-day event?

Nope! Giving Tuesday is a two-week endeavor that stretches from November 14th to November 28th. The goal is not only to raise money for local nonprofits but, perhaps more importantly, to raise awareness of the issues that these nonprofits are working to address. You can donate any time from the 14th through the 28th.

 

How can I get involved?

There are so many ways! We would, of course, be honored by any financial assistance you can provide. To contribute, head on over to our donation page at https://sharecharlotte.org/donate/18071.

Perhaps even more importantly, you can help by spreading the word! You can do this through word of mouth, retweeting our #GivingTuesdayCLT posts on Twitter @pflagcharlotte, changing your profile picture on Facebook to one of the graphics below, or sharing your story of why giving is important to you using the hashtag #GivingTuesdayCLT on any social media platform. Remember: this isn’t just a one-day campaign: share, re-share, and share again through the 28th!

givingtuesdaypic1
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The Lavender Pen Tour

Last night, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus teamed up with Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir to perform a very special show at Ovens Auditorium. The final stop on the Lavender Pen Tour, this night of music, celebration, advocacy, and togetherness was a true testimony to the power of music to bring people together and speak wisdom even into the darkest of times.

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus was founded 40 years ago. Their first official “concert” was performed less than four months after the group’s formation at the memorial services for Harvey Milk (San Francisco’s first openly-gay elected official) and Mayor George Moscone after their assassination on November 27, 1978.

SFGMC planned the Lavender Pen Tour (named in honor of the lavender pen that Harvey Milk gave to Mayor Moscone to sign into being a gay civil rights bill passed a year before their death) shortly after last year’s election. Rather than go ahead with their planned trip to Europe, conductor Timothy Seelig and men of the choir decided that their talent could be better used spreading their message of love and acceptance to some of the South’s most conservative, anti-LGBT “Red” states.

Joining forced with Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, SFGMC began their tour in Mississippi, traveling through Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina before ending in North Carolina. The group performed at a number of interfaith services as well as big-venue concerts. In Selma, Alabama, they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and throughout the week-long tour, the singers met with local LGBT, civil rights, and religious organizations. Each concert’s earnings were given directly back to the community: any money that didn’t go directly to covering the base cost of the trip was donated to local LGBT organizations. To make this remarkable charity possible, each member of SFGMC and OIFGC paid the $2000+ to cover their own way.

Last night’s concert at Oven’s Auditorium featured opening acts by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte and One Voice Chorus of Charlotte. Proceeds went to Time Out Youth, RAIN, PFLAG Charlotte, Transcend, and the participating choruses. Nearly every act was met with a standing ovation, and the energy and love in the performance space was palpable from beginning to end.

For more information about SFGMC, please visit their website at http://www.sfgmc.org. More information about the Lavender Pen Tour can be found there, as well.